UCLA's run game appeared to take another positive step Monday afternoon, drawing praise from head coach Jim Mora and adding to what has been a stretch of promising practices for the offense.
Soso Jamabo again earned a majority of the first-unit reps, but it was truly a team effort for the stable of backs. Jalen Starks, who was limited through the first week and a half when he wore a protective club on his right hand, had his best showing of the spring, barreling his way to a long run and, later, punishing defenders that stood in his way. On another play when he lined up at fullback, Starks broke left and put a monster block on cornerback Colin Samuel that opened a wide running lane. Then, a few minutes later, Starks leveled another potential tackler, this time with the football in his hands, and stormed into the end zone as the entire offense ran over to celebrate with him.
There were some decently sized holes for the backs to run through Monday, particularly on the right side. Jamabo had a big gain in 11-on-11 bursting through the right before putting a move on a linebacker to cut back inside, which we still think he needs to do more of. He’s leaving some extra yards on the field when he attempts to outrun some of the linebackers to the edge -- a race he doesn’t typically win. Jamabo limped his way through the end of the session but was in there during competitive periods, making a great one-handed snag of an errant toss that would have gone for a sure turnover in the backfield.
The stretch and outside zone plays continued to have some level of effectiveness, and the variance shown by Jedd Fisch heading into the third week of spring practices has definitely made the defense play more hesitantly. Fisch incorporated outside tosses and several end-around runs that had some success; none more than a huge run from Demetric Felton, who cut up field as soon as he hit the edge and put a spin move on a defender for more yardage. Theo Howard, who’s been working with the twos for about a week now, also had an impressive run on an end-around hand-off.
The misdirection has been working more consistently. When the defense has been anticipating one thing, Fisch has shown a tendency to hit them with another. In other words, he hasn't been very predictable in his play calling lately and that could be a great sign for an offense that might need a fair amount of deception this season. On a third-and-goal play late in practice, Devon Modster faked a handoff right, rolled to his left and calmly tossed a touchdown to a wide-open Jimmy Jaggers in the back of the end zone. Modster had another touchdown during 11-on-11 when he hit Adewale Omotosho on a drag route, and it was a bounce back of sorts given that Fisch emphatically made Modster redo a kill call at the line of scrimmage earlier in practice. Mora said the battle for the backup quarterback spot is still wide open, but Modster made good use of his second-team reps Monday.
It should be noted that Jaleel Wadood was sent off early for what appeared to be some sort of penalty. There were officials throwing flags and making calls throughout practice, and Mora was not too happy during that sequence, calling the entire team to the middle of the field and voicing his displeasure to the defensive staff.
RED ZONE 7-ON-7
The red zone 7-on-7 was the best period for Josh Rosen on Monday. He was hitting every receiver in stride, looking off safeties to get his targets some space up the middle, and put the necessary touch to fit throws into tight windows. Rosen hit Darren Andrews on an underneath drag for positive yardage before finding Alex Van Dyke on consecutive plays. Van Dyke boxed out his defender well both times and made some tough catches during the period, and it looks like he’s worked on his hands some this offseason. Later on, Rosen hit the reliable Caleb Wilson in the back of the end zone for another score.
Modster also made several nice throws in 7-on-7, hitting Van Dyke, Jordan Wilson and Felton on consecutive plays to get on the scoreboard.
OL VS DL ONE-ON-ONE
It was a shorter one-on-one period Monday, with more emphasis being put on team and red zone situations, but there were still some notable battles.
Kenny Lacy did well to contain Rick Wade in the first rep, holding his ground as Wade tried to bull rush his way through. Wade got revenge on Lacy in 11-on-11, blowing up a play-action call to get to Modster for what would have been a sure sack.
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Kolton Miller had another good battle that probably went Tuioti-Mariner’s way. He also blew past Jake Burton off the edge and has clearly been UCLA’s steadiest defensive linemen this spring.
Boss Tagaloa was too quick for any interior lineman that tried to keep him out of the backfield. He’s really built a good arsenal of pass-rush moves since arriving on campus.
-- True freshman defensive end Jaelan Phillips was suited and participated in some drills, but was not in on any live action while nursing a minor toe injury...
-- Samuel spent some time in the tent late in practice after taking the hit from Starks and also pulling up on an Omotosho touchdown...
-- Walk-on kicker Andrew Strauch capped practice with a 47-yard field goal in some gusty conditions...
-- The group of recruits at practice included the following: